It was a rough weekend. Anxiety pinched at my every breath. Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t stop thinking, couldn’t finish any of the tasks I had set for myself. Just…couldn’t.
It’s been a rough month, what with the pneumonia and the plumbing crisis and taxes to do and summer camp registrations and bleeding cash and still missing my dad and the pollen and the and and ands.
It’s been a rough year, even the parts I haven’t talked about. I’ve been getting quieter and quieter because I started believing the lie that there were stories I’m not allowed to tell. I spent too much time listening to the vicious little voice that says, “No one gives a shit what you think anyway.” I started carrying the weight of “but what if I hurt someone’s feelings if I say that?” I put my own hand over my own mouth then wondered why I felt so stifled.
So with all that said, I found myself sitting inside my car at Carlos’ school this morning and I realized that I was pretty close to happy. Jayla and I had made a pattern of beads. She took my hair out of its ponytail and said, “Let’s be pretty!” Reniya sat in my lap while we counted pegs and stacked them up to make the tallest tower we could. Caleb counted all the way to 20. Rico snuck up behind me so I could play our game where I look over my shoulder and pretend I can’t see him back there. Malak showed me her new pink sneakers. Jaden showed me his dance moves.
When the Good Morning Song played over the intercomm, we cleaned up the toys and pushed the chairs under the table, then the kids went to their spots on the rug. I kissed Carlos on the top of his head and whispered, “Have a great day. I love you.” I gave a couple of hugs to the ones who wanted one. I slipped out the side door of the school and walked across the empty parking lot as the Star Spangled Banner played. The PA system reaches out to the playground, so I can still hear what’s going on inside the building.
I sat in the car with the keys dangling from the ignition and my phone in hand. On busy mornings, that moment in the car is usually my first chance to gather myself and see how I am that day. Today, after all those airless moments this weekend, I found myself with a glimmer of happy, like a candle flame trying to get started. I looked out into the sun rising over the playground and breathed in some of the pink sky.
The teacher in charge of announcements read the menu for breakfast and lunch. She reminded everyone that tomorrow is superhero dress up day. Then she welcomed three little preschool kids who would be leading the school in the pledge that day. Each one hollered their name into the mic–so loud and proud I couldn’t really understand them. But their joy came through loud and clear.
They launched into the Pledge of Allegiance with verve. One little girl was going double-time so it kind of fell apart in the middle section. The teacher chimed in to get them back on track, and in unison they all wrapped it up on, “with liberty and justice for all.”
My heart twisted. That’s the part of the pledge that’s hardest to hear right now. For the past couple of years, being woke has worn me out. Once you’ve become attuned to the unjust parts of our system, whether it be sexism, racism, or economic chokeholds–it’s hard to believe it when we say “liberty and justice for all.” I have to remind myself that it’s a goal, not a done deal. That liberty and justice for ALL is what we’re working towards.
The happy started to dissipate under the weight. I could feel all that joy that I had stored up with my preK friends begin to flicker and fade.
But those kids on the microphone weren’t finished. Right after the Pledge of Allegiance, all the students at the Early Learning Center recite their school pledge, which goes like this:
Today I pledge to do my best
By being READY to learn
RESPONSIBLE for myself and
RESPECTFUL towards others.
I am an ELC Lion…hear me ROAR!
The trio doing morning announcements really threw themselves into that pledge today and I thank them for it. As their roars raced across the parking lot to where I sat alone in my car, I realized that I can believe in their simple pledge. Right now, every day.
I am ready to learn, even when the knowledge hurts.
I am responsible for myself, honoring my mind, body, and spirit.
I am respectful towards others, even those who disagree with me.
I am a tired but hopeful middle-aged white woman whose heart sometimes breaks in the parking lot….hear me ROAR.